Christians in the Middle East are being “deliberately attacked” in a campaign of persecution led by Islamist militants, Prince Charles said.
Many minority religious organisations have fled the region in the turmoil following the Arab Spring, and in Egypt particularly violence against Coptic Christians saw a marked increase after Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown.
Yesterday the Prince of Wales visited a number of British branches of churches based in the region, and heard from members whose families had suffered from religiously-motivated violence and murder.
Accompanied by Prince Ghazi of Jordan, he spoke to people at the Egyptian Coptic Church centre in Stevenage and the Syriac Orthodox cathedral in west London, before a reception at Clarence House with the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster and the Chief Rabbi.
“We cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately attacked by fundamentalist Islamist militants,” Prince Charles told the audience.
“For 20 years, I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding.
“The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so.
“This is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organised persecution, including to Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time.”
According to BBC News reports, Prince Charles said he felt deeply troubled by what he heard from victims yesterday.
“Christianity was, literally, born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ,” he said.
Coptic Christians date their church back to the 1st Century, when it was founded by the apostle St Mark.
Christians as a whole make up around 10 per cent of the population in Egypt alone, yet they have increasingly become targets in violent attacks.
In one incident at the end of October masked gunmen opened fire on a wedding party leaving a Coptic church. Four people were killed, including an eight-year-old girl.